Update – The Council T&E Committee will take the MetBranch Trail funding issue up at its February 27 meeting, not February 13. This gives us more time to contact the Council.
My last two posts focused on the impass between MCDOT and Montgomery Preservation Inc. (MPI) over the proposed alignment of the Metropolitan Branch Trail through the historic B&O Train Station property. I’ve been in contact with MPI and MCDOT to try to sort out what has gone wrong. There are very conflicting versions about what the problem is. It is complicated. But there does appear to be a path toward an agreement that is still available, that will work for the benefit of both the station owners and for the trail. That will take some time, I’ll report more on that soon.
We have an immediate problem that we must address now – restoring funding for the Metropolitan Branch Trail. The County Executive has proposed that the next CIP budget have NO funds to continue any work on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Montgomery County, for fiscal reasons. But this part of this regional trail has already suffered from several episodes of foot dragging and attempts to cut its budget over the years that has significantly delayed it. Montgomery County should get on with building the trail instead of trying to delay it yet again.
Bruce Johnston, Head of MCDOT Division of Transportation Engineering, has indicated to me that the ongoing disagreement with the owners of the station museum does not prevent MCDOT from designing and building the MetBranch from the new Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Station south through the Ripley District to the station museum. A temporary at-grade crossing of Georgia Avenue could be provided there while the historic station issues are being worked out with MPI. MPI is on record in support of continued funding on its website:
We recommend at least the restoration of funds for planning and consultation with stakeholders to the budget so it can move forward during this period.
Now is the time for trail supporters to urge the County Council to restore MetBranch funding to the CIP budget. The Council T&E Committee is scheduled to take this up
in one week, at its February 13 meeting at its February 27 meeting. All Councilmembers will receive an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The T&E Committee Members are Council President Roger Berliner, Councilmember Hans Riemer, and Councilmember Nancy Floreen. Contact information for individual Councilmembers is at www.montgomerycountymd.gov.